Monday, April 27, 2009

Interesting, but Disappointing

Normally, I don't write entries that have a negative feel to them, but I will have a hard time hiding my disappointment in this posting.
I attended our National Championship Series quarter finals yesterday. I was assigned the middle for one of the games and asked for my upgrade assessment. I attended a mandatory meeting last week. I researched the teams I knew I was getting and even went through some of the new sections in "Advice" publication. I put in quite a bit of time to be sure I was ready for my game. I went to the fields the night before to make sure I knew where they were located. I arrived at the field the day of the game several hours early so I could watch the previous game. All of this was done to properly prepared for my assessment...which didn't happen. Apparently, someone failed to ask assessors to come to the games in time for them to be available, so none were there. I don't really understand that. I assume state cup games are scheduled many months in advance. My next two weekends, I only have lines, no middles. I spoke with one of the committee guys and tried to express my disappointment. He said he'd get me a game for the semi-finals. We'll see. For those of you that have gone to these types of tournaments, does this sound a little unusual?
To make it worse, my game was...well...trying. The summary is this: 3 cautions, 2 send-offs. Yeah. The first half went really well. 9 minutes into the second half, there was a tackle right in front of me. By my view, the player with the ball fell and landed on the ball. The defender was standing over him. As the attacker was getting up, the defender stomped on his thigh. In my view, this was a clear send off. In hindsight, I probably should have stopped play immediately, but as I mentioned, the attacker was getting up. Anyway, that was the catalyst for the game to go down hill. The team with the send-off was generally getting outplayed to begin with and them playing a man down tipped the scales. After that, it was nothing but dissent and debate.
In fact, I had spoken to one of their players about his constant comments at least 2 times. Late in the 2nd half, he was taking the ball into the opponents half when he was fouled. As we stopped play, he shoved the defender. I cautioned him for it and he proceeded to call me...something not very nice. That was the 2nd send off.
It was a tough game. The feedback I received from the others was maybe I was not clamping down on the small stuff and that caused the violent conduct send-off. I accept that maybe I should have been a little tighter, but I will not accept that I am somehow responsible for a players actions. I didn't make him stomp on that player's leg.
It was a tough weekend and I'm disappointed and a bit disillusioned. I feel like I could have done a better game, and I really feel like I'm going to have a tough time getting this upgrade assessment.
Let me know if you have had similar circumstances.


CSR said...

Some thoughts and questions. . .

While the first half went really well, what was the intensity level of the players? Did you meet or exceed it?

On the incident for the first send-off. . .when the tackle happened, where were you? When you saw the defender standing over the other player, how fast did you get there? When you see a tackle and there's the possibility for an "incident" or game disrepute, you have to "get there". I know this is something that I need to work on as well. Is it possible that quickly injecting presence could have prevented this send-off? Would the player have stomped his opponent with you standing 3 feet away yelling at him to move along? Presence and personality are key components of the Game Management Model.

On the second send-off, you said you cautioned the player for the shove. Then he proceeded to call you something "not very nice". Did you caution him again - and then send him off? Or did you go straight red (abusive language)?

Do you agree with your colleagues' assertions that you should have clamped down on the small stuff? The answer should depend on the course of the match itself (the "Big Picture"), but maybe ask yourself -
- How would that have fit into the Game Management Model and/or provided for good flow? Improving flow means that players will be expected to play through a lot of trifling stuff where in the past they would have looked for the whistle to stop play. This is the direction we're going - and players (and coaches & referees) are simply going to have to adapt. Obviously, if the game has little/no flow to begin with then it's not like we can manufacture it. So if there was good flow in the match, why would your colleagues say you should take it away? If there wasn't any flow, then maybe I could see it.

You are 100% correct - PLAYER BEHAVIOR IS THE PLAYERS' RESPONSIBILITY! In doing our job, referees create situations where each player has many choices. . .that they choose to act irresponsibly is THEIR CHOICE. Based on the situation, it may or may not be understandable, but the choice to behave a certain way is still theirs. So when you said that the game went downhill, it's because the players took it there.

As for the (missed) assessment. . .I am surprised that there wouldn't be assessors available at matches of that level, but. . .without knowing the correct process of requesting assessments in your area, I don't know what to tell you. But I do understand your disappointment - especially since it's getting late in the season. And to go along with that, the matches that are still available will likely be higher-level matches - which is to say more challenging.

-- CSR

The Referee said...

At the time, I thought I was in tune with the players.
I was 15 feet away with the first send off. I was almost close enough to touch the offender. In fact, I thought he was moving away. It happened quite suddenly.
With the second send off, I went straight red for abusive language. It was a pretty nasty issue, well beyond an angry outburst.
Yes, in hindsight, I have to get better at recognizing the small stuff and reading what the players want. I recognize that.
As always, I appreciate and value your insight.

CSR said...

While the game is indeed for the players, it's only partly about what they want. Yes, we need to recognize the small stuff - but that doesn't necessarily mean we blow the whistle for it. I think the players bear a great deal of responsibility to adapt to the way US Soccer is looking for matches to be called.

To be sure, there is a balance between keeping the match under control and letting the players sort things on their own - thereby creating flow. There is risk taking involved, but the better you read the match and grasp the big picture of the match the easier it will be to strike that balance. This is refereeing.

This past weekend, I worked a tournament in Columbus. On Sunday, I was doing an AR2 and on the field immediately behind me there was a U16B match with a national referee in the middle. In the 2nd half, I look over when I hear the parents screaming - and see virtually all the players in a scrum. Punches flying all around. The CR and one AR were standing outside the cluster, just observing and writing names. Do you suppose this match went to hell because the CR didn't recognize the small stuff or read what the players want? This match went into the toilet because a whole mess of players decided to lose their minds. In all. . .10 red cards, one yellow card, and a match abandoned. Remember, the local policeman doesn't drive anyone to commit a crime. They're just there to deter them from doing so or step in if they do commit a crime.

-- CSR

Anonymous said...

It is highly unusual that there was not an assessor at the field for games at that level. But as we all know the referee "industry" can be befuddling at times.

Although it is difficult to comment about an official's performance when you don't view the game first hand, I do have some comments based on your summary.

First, the initial send-off was the correct call. Yes, you probably could have blown the play dead when the attacking player fell on the ball and then sprinted to the area to prevent any confrontation (due to the vulnerable positon of the attacker), but it didn't happen that way and there is nothing really wrong with that. It seems as if you decided to blow the whistle, that player was intent on sending a message and would have been sent off for misconduct anyway.

Secondly, don't judge your performance by the way the players dicatate play.

"The summary is this: 3
cautions, 2 send-offs. yeah. The first half went really well."

The amount of cards that were distributed does not not always directly relate to your performance. As CSR related, even the most experienced referees have games in which players just lose it and ruin the entire game.

To relate one of my own stories: I was working a tournament down in Florida. It was a U17 Boys semi final match. It was hot, 92 and humid, late in the first half there was a "stomping" incident. I immediately sent off the player for serios foul play. However, that was not enough for the teammates of the player that was stomped. Mass confrontation occured and took about 5 - 10 minutes to cool down. After 2 additional red cards and 4 yellow (thank goodness for AR's!) the game was back on. The coaches were screaming, the players were upset, and I was starting to get doubt myself. After the game I shook both of the coaches hands and one gave a severe attitude with some language. When I returned to the referee room there were 2 assessors there that wanted to speak to me. One had seen the entire game, the other was walking from one game to another and caught my game on the way past. I thought they were going to rip me a new one. However, they were full of praise and told me I did everything correctly. Of course, being assessors, they added some aspects I need to work on and other things that I had missed during the game.

You are going to have your good games and your bad games. Just do your best, apply the laws of the game as they are supposed to be applied and you will succeed.

Best of luck!